As the Thunder head into a new season, a lot of questions still remain. Sam Presti sat down with the media and answered some of those questions. Presti’s remarks on the team’s rebuilding path provided a lot of insight into how he views the future of the Thunder.
Presti was sober and measured in his remarks and he did not deviate from the end goal that he outlined a few years in The Oklahoman. The Thunder are rebuilding to be a strong team for the long-term not just for a short window. Presti is prioritising sustainable regular success over peaks and troughs.
Sam spent a lot of time during the press conference answering questions about rebuilding and he made his thoughts clear. Our very own Clemente Almanza transcribed those remarks on Twitter.
Sam Presti: "We're trying to build a team that can be sustainable in the Western Conference."— Clemente Almanza (@CAlmanza1007) September 24, 2021
Sam Presti says the team will not take shortcuts or short term solutions for a long term project.— Clemente Almanza (@CAlmanza1007) September 24, 2021
It is evident that Presti is willing to play the long game with this current Thunder roster. He has no interest in pushing short-term success if it is detrimental to what the Thunder’s future could be. His last quote on this topic was quite telling.
Sam Presti in OKC's rebuild: "People celebrate the breakthrough but what really gets honored is the path."— Clemente Almanza (@CAlmanza1007) September 24, 2021
Presti’s remarks indicate that the Thunder take a process-oriented approach and do not measure themselves according to specific outcomes. It is a reasonable and prudent stance to take; chasing short-term glory can mean that structural issues are ignored.
Over the last few weeks, there has been a lot of talk about players being vaccinated and the rules that will apply to unvaccinated players. Sam Presti stated that all of the Thunder players have been vaccinated.
Sam Presti: "All our guys are vaccinated."— Clemente Almanza (@CAlmanza1007) September 24, 2021
This is positive news for the Thunder in terms of establishing cohesion across the roster. Last season, teams struggled to build chemistry as a result of players having to miss games due to self isolation. This will not be an issue for the Thunder and should mean that no player misses out on valuable development time.
Aleksej Pokusevski has not been seen much this summer and was held out of Summer League by the Thunder. Pokusevski is following a different development path and Presti shed some light on Pokusevski’s situation.
Sam Presti on Aleksej Pokusevski: "I think he maximized the time he had in the summer and now we'll see where that leaves us when we start training camp."— Clemente Almanza (@CAlmanza1007) September 24, 2021
Pokusevski spent a lot of time with the Thunder training staff in the offseason with the aim of getting stronger. Aleksej is incredibly skilled but his rail-thin frame meant that he struggled at times during his rookie season. Adding muscle to his body should hopefully allow him to grow even further.
Shai’s Plantar Fasciitis:
Shai was shut down last season due to medical concerns relating to plantar fasciitis. The Thunder believed that it was unwise to keep playing Shai extended minutes when he had an injury that could have deteriorated.
Gilgeous-Alexander sat out the rest of the season and he also missed the Tokyo Olympics. It was a huge sacrifice on his part but he is healthy coming into this season. He has been working out and Presti believes that the Thunder’s cautious approach is one of the reasons why Shai should be good to go.
Sam Presti on SGA's health: "He's in a great spot. I watched him workout this morning."— Clemente Almanza (@CAlmanza1007) September 24, 2021
Also said that one of the reasons why he thinks he's good to go is because of the conservative approach the Thunder took last season with his plantar fasciitis
Presti also spoke briefly about Derrick Favors who was acquired from the Jazz in late July. Favors was traded away by the Jazz as a way of managing their payroll and it was largely expected that Favors would not spend much time in Oklahoma City.
Derrick Favors is a good center in the prime of his career; a buyout or trade seemed to be mutually beneficial for both sides. Favors would not waste a year in Oklahoma City and the Thunder would open up minutes at center for Isaiah Roby or JRE.
Sam Presti believes otherwise and feels that Derrick Favors can help the Thunder’s young guys.
Sam Presti on Derrick Favors' future with the Thunder: "I'm excited to see how he fits in with the team... We have to see how the season unfolds... I think he can help the team, absolutely."— Clemente Almanza (@CAlmanza1007) September 24, 2021
Presti’s argument is completely reasonable; Favors has previously proven to be a good veteran for young players to learn from. It is entirely possible that he plays the same role on the Thunder.
Josh Giddey sprained his ankle at the start of Summer League and did not play another game. Presti provided an update on Giddey’s injury status earlier today.
Sam Presti says Josh Giddey is fine from his ankle sprain— Clemente Almanza (@CAlmanza1007) September 24, 2021
The Thunder are pretty deep at the forward spots with young players. Josh Giddey, Aleksej Pokusevski, JRE and Isaiah Roby will all slot into Coach Daigneault’s rotation over the course of the season. It did seem that Darius Bazley would be the odd man out however Presti made clear that he is still confident in Bazley’s development.
Sam Presti: "Darius Bazley is going to his third year here but he's still scratching the surface."— Clemente Almanza (@CAlmanza1007) September 24, 2021
The press conference closed with questions relating to the Thunder’s attendance protocols for the upcoming season. It was announced earlier this week that fans must be vaccinated or have a negative COVID test to be able to attend games. Presti elaborated on this decision in the closing moments of the presser.
Sam Presti: "Any decision like that is not made by one individual person but Clay (Bennett) is the final decision maker on anything."— Clemente Almanza (@CAlmanza1007) September 24, 2021
Says that the team consulted with medical professionals to create the safest environment for fans